Bishops support amendment on Victims and Prisoners Bill

Catholic and Anglican Prisons bishops support bill amendment on hidden “devastating consequences” for children when primary caregivers are imprisoned

Bishop Richard Moth, the Lead Bishop for Prisons for the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales, and Bishop Rachel Treweek, Anglican Bishop for Prisons, have issued a joint statement supporting Amendment 172 to the Victims and Prisoners Bill.

The amendment to the Bill, currently at the Committee Stage in the House of Lords, requires the central collection and publication of data that shows the number of primary carers in the prison system, how many children they are responsible for, as well as the ages of those children.

According to the two bishops, this will help society understand the “devastating consequences” that the imprisonment of a primary caregiver can have on a child.

They said: “Given the absence of any systematic recording and reporting of the number of children affected by imprisonment and the compelling evidence that the imprisonment of a primary carer can have devastating consequences for the development of a child, we believe that such an amendment is both necessary and proportionate to inform our criminal justice policy in an area of great and growing social concern.”

The amendment, tabled by Lord Farmer with support from Bishop Treweek and Labour Peer Lord Ponsonby, will help understand and address the experience of the over 17,500 children estimated to be separated from their mothers in prison, as well as those without other primary caregivers.

Bishop Moth and Bishop Treweek agreed: “Substantial research has revealed that children affected by the imprisonment of a primary carer are hidden victims of the criminal justice process, especially in the most common cases where their mother has been sent to prison.

“A mother’s imprisonment is often a profoundly disruptive and traumatic experience affecting all aspects of a child’s life, regardless of the age of the child or the length of the sentence, while the rupturing of relationship between a prisoner with primary caring responsibilities and those in their care can itself be a significant stumbling block to rehabilitation.”

They added: “When we consider that 31% of our female prisoners and 24% of our male prisoners were themselves taken into care as children, we can see that caring for children, especially those affected by imprisonment, is critical for the flourishing of all within our communities.”